A retired U.S. Marine from Queens was arrested and charged with making a hoax bomb threat to FBI personnel at the Jacob K. Javits Federal Office Building in Lower Manhattan on Wednesday, Nov. 17.
Gerardo Manuel Checo Nunez, 33, was taken into custody by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and charged with making an alleged bomb threat. He was brought before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang in Manhattan federal court Thursday afternoon.
Checo Nunez entered the Javits Building and approached a security booth staffed by members of the uniformed security police for the FBI, and allegedly slammed against the transparent security screen protecting the security booth a copy of a written complaint he previously filed through the FBI’s website, alleging that a foreign government had hacked his accounts and was trying to extort him.
Checo Nunez then told security officers he had an improvised explosive device (IED) inside a van he parked outside a Starbucks on Worth Street near Lafayette Street. The FBI Police took him into custody and alerted members of the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).
Under questioning, Checo Nunez told members of the JTTF that there was not an IED in his vehicle and that he made up the story because he wanted the FBI to pay attention to his complaints that he was being hacked.
“As alleged, the defendant’s bomb threat caused an immediate mobilization by the FBI and the NYPD appropriate for a real explosive device,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said.”Hoax or not, a bomb threat requires the diversion of valuable law enforcement and public safety resources, and causes genuine fear in the public. The defendant now faces a serious federal charge for his alleged conduct.”
The JTTF located the van and evacuated the area, including an apartment building, and closed the area to pedestrian and vehicle traffic. FBI bomb technicians searched the vehicle and determined that it did not contain an IED or any other explosive device or material.
During a subsequent search, JTTF investigators discovered rounds of ammunition and written materials regarding weapons of mass destruction and the detection of IEDs.
“While Nunez’s alleged threat to our federal building was deemed a hoax, his actions called for the resources of law enforcement, which were expended in response to one man’s personal gripe,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael J. Driscoll said. “Aside from the fact that these types of hoax threats divert resources and cost taxpayer dollars, they put law enforcement in harm’s way regardless of their intended purpose. Make no mistake about it, this case will be taken as seriously as any other.”
Checo, who served in the Marine Corps from 2006 to 2013 as an engineer equipment operator, is charged with one count of conveying false information and hoaxes in connection with an alleged bomb threat.
If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
“In a city that has experienced more than 50 terrorist plots and four attacks, making a claim that you have a bomb at a government building is no joke,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said. “Mr. Checo Nunez faces serious charges which should serve as an example to others who believe making threats is an effective way to get attention.”